Biden Defers for the Time Being on Declaring a Climate Emergency!
President Joe Biden will go to Massachusetts on Wednesday to talk about his efforts to fight climate change. According to a person familiar with the president’s plans, he will not declare an emergency, which would free up federal resources to deal with the problem.
After Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. left talks about climate legislation, there has been a lot of pressure on Biden to declare an emergency. During his trip to Somerset, Massachusetts, Vice President Biden could announce more steps to fight climate change, but the White House hasn’t said what those steps are yet.
The president has been trying to show Democratic voters that he is working hard to stop global warming at a time when some of his supporters have given up hope because of the slow pace of change. He has promised to move forward on his own if Congress doesn’t do anything.
The person familiar with Biden’s intention to hold off on making an emergency declaration spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the plans publicly. It was not clear whether an emergency declaration remains under consideration.
Declaring a climate emergency would be like what former President Donald Trump did to speed up the building of a wall along the southern border. It would let Biden change how money is spent to speed up the move away from fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas and toward renewable energy like wind and solar power. The declaration could also be used as a legal reason to stop oil and gas drilling or other projects. However, energy companies or Republican-led states would likely fight such actions in court.
The focus on climate action comes during a heat wave that has burned large parts of Europe. Britain, which isn’t used to such extreme weather, reached its highest temperature ever recorded.
The usually cool country was just the latest to be hit by unusually hot and dry weather, which has caused wildfires from Portugal to the Balkans and caused hundreds of people to die from the heat. Images of a French beach on fire and Britons sweating even at the beach have made people more worried about climate change.
The president vowed late last week to take robust executive action on climate after Manchin — who has wielded outsized influence on Biden’s legislative agenda because of Democrats’ razor-thin majority in the Senate — hit the brakes on negotiations over proposals for new environmental programs and higher taxes on the wealthy and corporations.
One of the biggest backers of fossil fuels within the Democratic caucus, Manchin has blamed persistently high inflation for his hesitation to go along with another spending package. His resistance has enraged other congressional Democrats who have ramped up pressure on Biden to act on his own on climate.
“I think given the global crisis that we’re facing, given the inability of Congress to address this existential threat, I think the White House has got to use all of the resources and tools that they can,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. On a climate emergency, “that’s something that I’ve called for, a long time ago.”
Biden, who served in the Senate for more than three decades, “has been chained to the legislative process, thinking about his past as a senator,” Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., said at a news conference Monday night. “Now he’s unchained, and he has to go.”
John Podesta, the head of the liberal Center for American Progress’s board, said that top White House officials met with environmental leaders on Friday to talk about policy ideas. Some of the ideas were to tighten rules about pollution from cars and power plants, ban the export of crude oil, and stop giving new leases for oil drilling on federal lands and waters.
“If he’s going to make good on his commitments to do everything he can to bring emissions down, he’s got to pay attention to those critical regulatory issues that are facing him,” said Podesta, a former climate counselor for President Barack Obama.
Ben King, an associate director at the independent research firm Rhodium Group, said that the United States is “nowhere close” to meeting the ambitious goals for reducing emissions that Biden set.
Biden raised the country’s goal of cutting emissions to at least 50 percent less than in 2005 by 2030. The latest analysis by the Rhodium Group shows that the U.S. is on track to reach a reduction of 24–35% with the policies that are already in place at the federal and state levels.
“Absent meaningful policy action, we’re far off track from meeting the goals that the U.S. is committed to under the Paris accord,” King said, referring to a 2015 global conference on addressing climate change.
Even though Democrats and environmental groups pushed Biden to act on his own, some legal experts questioned whether a climate change emergency declaration is necessary.
“Emergency powers are designed for events such as terrorist attacks, epidemics, and natural disasters,” said Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the liberty and national security program at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law.